February 12, 2012

Do you like this?

Two premieres on yesterday’s programme were absolutely preposterous. One thrived on this, while the other didn’t intend to be and floundered miserably as a result.

The first was, of course, the much anticipated Iron Sky by Timo Vuorensola in Panorama. The premise should be familiar to most: the Nazis escaped Earth in 1945, relocating to the dark side of the moon; in 2018, they are ready to return and finish what they started. By that I mean world domination, not the Holocaust, as the latter isn’t so much as hinted at (probably a wise move, all things considered).

For what it’s worth, there is a plot. However, it’s so ludicrous, it’s rather pointless to provide a synopsis, and besides, how little sense it makes even within the film’s utter nonsensicality is part of the fun. Basically, the film delivers on its promise – if the trailer hits your funny bone, you’ll laugh throughout.

What I found interesting was that the funniest parts aren’t actually the Nazi jokes, but the ones that comment on current world politics. Several scenes feature a Dr. Strangelove-style war room and the many swipes Iron Sky takes at the foreign policies of various countries (the U.S. first and foremost) are surprisingly spot-on. The whole film can be read as a critique of the current state of world politics, actually making (at least in part) for far more intelligent humour than one would have expected.

It’s hardly going to change the world, but it elevates it above your run-of-the-mill stoner film. And, to be honest, also above many of these other ‘political’ Berlinale films that take themselves oh-so-seriously.

And that’s exactly what the other preposterous film of the day does, although without political intent. The Competition film Dictado (Childish Games) by Antonio Chavarrías is a typically Spanish horror-cum-psycho-thriller à la J.A. Bayona's The Orphanage, with its plot essentially ripped off of Michael Haneke’s Caché.

Daniel (Juan Diego Botto) and Laura (Bárbara Lennie) are a happy couple until one day Mario (Marc Rodríguez), a childhood friend of Daniel’s, visits him at work, cryptically imploring him to come see his daughter Julia (Mágica Pérez). He shrugs him off, but the visit troubles him, initiating a series of flashbacks revealing that Daniel harbours a dark secret about his childhood: he and Mario were responsible for the death of Mario’s sister. When Mario kills himself soon after, the happy couple end up adopting Julia, who seems to be the reincarnation of the dead girl, come back to haunt those responsible for her death. With Mario taken care of, now it's Daniel's turn.

At first Dictado, which is nicely shot and acted, had me intrigued to see how it would play with Haneke’s premise. Then the ghost element was introduced, and it just got pathetic. The entire deterioration of Daniel’s sanity and of his relationship with Laura was rendered meaningless and the film didn’t build up enough suspense to hold up as a horror story, thus getting stuck in a sort of limbo of genres: too ridiculous to be meaningful, too boring to be scary. At a loss, the film winds up in a big dramatic finale so idiotic and exaggerated that it literally had the audience laughing out loud when Daniel was sent hurtling off a cliff – a small compensation for having sat through that ordeal.     


February 12, 2012

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